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April 24 2011

What’s Wrong With American Television – Part 2

Yesterday I started writing up what I think is wrong with American television.  To be honest, when I started I figured it would be one post, and all done.  As I continued to write I realized there is so much wrong with our system that there was no way it could be restricted to just one post without being insanely long.  So, here you are, part 2 of one man’s thoughts on what is going wrong on our television screens.

To briefly recap, in part 1 I discussed that endless renewals lead to writers not knowing how long to stretch out a story, and also how the length of our seasons are just too much to maintain quality.

Reality Television

Storage WarsReality television seemed like an okay idea when it started, but then networks discovered that they can produce them for next to nothing and they started going wider and wider with their ideas of what would make a good show.  Now we can’t seem to escape them, and if you even bother to have your television on any more, you’re going to run of these highly questionable ideas.

While I can take things like Deadliest Catch or Ice Road Truckers as these are real jobs with potentially dire consequences, we now have things like Storage Wars.  If you haven’t caught this gem of a show as of yet, consider yourself blessed.  Where shows such as the aforementioned Deadliest Catch never seemed forced, Storage Wars is just an endless series of scenarios that feel scripted with “people,” although perhaps they would be better referred to as “characters,” that seem to amazingly have short stories that are always wrapped up in 30 minutes.

And that says nothing of the concept.  This is a show about people that travel from one storage facility auction to another, buying up lockers that people failed to pay their bills on.  I get that some people make a living this way, but who was the lunkhead sitting around at A&E (you know, the “Arts & Entertainment” network?) that thought this would somehow make engaging television?

This says nothing of the copycat shows that seem to follow a successful reality show.  Ace of Cakes begot Cake Boss, Ghost Hunters unleashed a slew of much lower quality paranormal shows, Bridezillas wrought a slew of wedding shows and on and on and on.  This says nothing of shows spun off of each other.  How many Real Housewives of … does the world really need?

“Reality television,” and I use the term very loosely, has turned into the cess pool people always thought it would become, if not worse.  How did anyone ever think Mounted in Alaska, a show about taxidermy in, you guessed it, Alaska, was a winning idea?

Sadly, so long as these shows are cheap to produce and bring in enough advertising dollars to turn a profit, they will continue to proliferate.  Course, if someone wanted to start a show about professional bloggers … Blogging Wars?

The Summer

Hell's KitchenJust like taking the summer off is an outdated concept for schools, so should it be for television in general.  While I stated in part 1 that seasons were too long, and some could see this as a contradiction, it isn’t.  Follow the HBO formula I mentioned yesterday of shorter seasons and launch some quality shows.  I know some have attempted this, but they always end up trying to launch risky shows that no one would watch no matter when they are on.  Look at Hell’s Kitchen, yes it’s a reality series, but yet it keeps coming back every summer to great ratings.  Big Brother is another summer staple that, while getting more horrific with each passing season, just goes to prove that people crave new content even in the summer months.

Instead of just filling the summer schedule with reruns, fluff and shows that shouldn’t get on the air at all, lets try some short, well thought out and, most importantly, not just reality seasons in these months.  Lets get something on the air that is actually worth watching and perhaps the networks would finally wake up to the fact that essentially taking three months off a year is just ridiculous.

No, I’m not holding my breath for this one to come to pass.

The System is Broken

There is no doubt that the television system is broken, but it isn’t hopeless.  It would simply take some people with brains and guts to change the system, but why would they want to do that and risk their jobs?  Sadly, I don’t see things changing in the American television landscape any time soon, and my gut tells me that is just going to lead to me dropping even more shows like I’ve done over the past few weeks.

If I was to really analyze all of the problems in TV at this time, it wouldn’t probably turn into a week long series, but I imagine both the readers and myself would get bored to tears before we got to the end.  I do, however, encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments below, and perhaps it will spark further ramblings from me on where this American institution has gone so badly off the rails.



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  • Sean,

    Once again I agree with you that the TV system is corrupt. The reality TV is actually a lot more marketable than you think. Last year I searched the internet high and low for someone to produce a show for me. I had the story line plotted out but the actually dialogue and plots were loosely formed together.

    A company did contact me and instantly wanted to produce the show. Of course this threw me off. Wondering who these people were and why would they trust me with their money to produce my show?

    Well, after looking into it I discovered that they would put up 50% of the production cost and I would fork over the rest of it. They set it at $21,000. That also included actors, venues, cameras, editing and all the finalization with the project.

    So taking that knowledge that I received from that experience, I now believe that the “reality show” market is no longer what the Networks and Cable companies produce. It instead, is a small company or business of a sort that takes all the advertising dollars they would use with local papers or radio and make a show that would serve as their advertising for, lets say, 6 month period.

    They sell the shows to the Network or Cable company, and then based off the ratings and appeal of the show, the TV company will decide when to have the second season, if ever.

    Also, your summer show rant is a little out dated as well. Unless, you are solely talking about Network television. USA and the SyFy channel have a huge following for there summer shows. SyFy has Eureka and Warehouse 13. USA has Psych, Burn Notice and Royal Pains. All these shows would not be profitable on any of the major networks. The shows are well thought out, with characters you can relate too. Also, they speak with better diction and with a larger vocabulary. ie not ‘Legend……wait for it……..dairy. legendary’

    A change is coming. Until the networks realize that the baby boomers in the main office don’t know jack, we are kinda screwed. When our generation is in charge I believe that TV will be regionalized. So as to generate more advertising dollars. Sorta like splitting stocks. There are twice as many spots, but not as expensive.

    Mase Daniels
    WPHB 1260AM
    Philipsburg PA